Essex boys Nothing But Thieves have had one hell of a year. After hit single Itch was awarded Radio 1’s Hottest Record in the World, the band’s self-titled debut album shot straight to #7 in the UK Charts and #3 on iTunes. Having supported Muse in Rome in front of a 30,000 strong crowd in July and a smashing set at Reading and Leeds, the boys were no strangers to a sold-out gig when their ‘Ban All The Music’ album tour sold out all of it’s UK and European dates. Their star is definitely rising, and it’s no surprise given the captivating, raw and hard-hitting rock tunes that are polished off with vocalist Conor Mason’s seriously impressive falsetto. I caught up with Conor in-between one tour and the next…
Hey Conor, congrats on the flying start for the album! A top ten spot must be an incredible feeling for your debut – were you nervous about putting it out into the world?
No not at all. I think when you’ve worked so long and so hard on something, at the end of the day you’re just so pleased to have it out that you don’t feel the nerves. We were all just so happy to get it out, so the fact that it went to number 7 and the reaction it’s had is all a bonus. Honestly, it’s really touching.
The album also shot to the top of the vinyl chart, which is fantastic. I’m placed firmly in the vinyl-sounds-better camp – were you influenced by any old records when writing/recording?
That was awesome, so so good. I’m an avid vinyl collector so I was pretty pleased! There were records that inspired the album for sure, I’d definitely say Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ – he’s my favourite singer, my idol – Led Zeppelin I and II, and Radiohead’s first three albums. There were other bits and bobs, but they were our main core influences. I think we touch on so many different genres because we’re such fans of eclectic music that it all just comes in a big melting pot, and you don’t really realise that you’re getting influenced because you’re just so in love with their music.
A long time in the making, were there any elements of writing/recording the album that stand out as being most memorable?
Yeah it did span over quite a while, so there were different points – some songs could take four weeks to write and we’d come back to them four or five times, sometimes it would take forty minutes. If I was to pick one in particular it would be If I Get High, we literally sat down and it was done really quickly, and it’s now our favourite song on the record. It was one of those moments where it all just came together naturally and now everyone’s in love with that song, so that was really cool.
Such a great song. What was the hardest song to write?
Probably Graveyard Whistling because the bass and the melody was all there, but we worked really hard on owning that surrounding sound, and that took us a good four or five tries. We were really happy with what we came up with because it sounded like something we’d not done, and hadn’t really heard before.
After the success of the Graveyard Whistling EP, you already had an established fan-base, but were you at all surprised by the reaction the album received?
I love it! I love that people have had such a strong reaction to it, in whatever sense that is, whether it’s negative or positive. It’s flattering that people react to it in any way, but it’s been mainly positive which is cool!
So you’ve just returned from your first big European tour for the debut album, were there any cities that went particularly crazy for you?
For some reason, both Poland Italy are just mental. We played in Warsaw to a sold-out crowd of 950 and they’re just nuts! The fans have just really latched onto us and I don’t know why, it’s like we’re their little pet and they want to look after us and they don’t want anyone else to have us. They tell everyone in Poland and the word just spreads. It’s the most natural form of growth, it’s all word of mouth over there as we haven’t done much press – and that’s really flattering.
In Italy we played a massive gig of about 30,000 people with Muse. I especially remember the first few rows during our gig – we got the most adamant Muse fans, and they became our fans! We sold out two gigs in Bologna and Milan and they were both insane too. Yeah, so those two countries were particularly nuts.
So when you’re playing live, what’s your favourite song to play?
I think at the moment it’s Drawing Pins because on the tour was the first time we played it live. Even though we’ve now played it for a few months straight, it’s still the most enjoyable because it’s just really rocky, kinda groovy – it kinda makes me feel sexy… I like a song that makes me feel sexy!
Sexy! Fantastic. My fave songs are your slower numbers – Lover Please Stay is so captivating and raw. How is this live, does it feel like a breather in your set?
No, not at all! I think our fans know that they’re not coming to see a Slayer show, you know? They’re not coming to headbang, they’re coming to have a full-rounded experience of music, whether that be a slower song or a hard rock song. That’s the whole point of our band, it’s very eclectic and you get a lot from each song and each song’s different. So I think everyone relishes those soft moments as much as they relish the hard moments. We build the set purposefully, like we did on the album, in a way that will work with natural ups and downs. I do definitely relish those moments in the set and it does give you a slight breather but also, I like the mood it sets. I like seeing the faces and I like the feeling in the air – it’s a good feeling when you do those sorts of songs.
I can imagine that feels incredible! On the theme of touring, I read that someone threw a bra at you, is that right?
Oh yeah, that was Bologna – I got three bras to the face, that was quite fun! I think it was during Hanging, and they just threw them on stage so I kind of half wore them. Again, I felt very sexy!
So after playing Reading/Leeds and various others this year, what festivals are you hoping to take on in 2016?
We just got a call from our manager saying that Soundwave is officially cancelled and I’m so gutted, so we’re in talks to figure out touring Australia now because we really want to go. Festival-wise I really want to play the main stage at Reading, I don’t know what’s going on with that yet but we’ll see! I really hope we play Glasto because that would be the dream… but unfortunately I’m not allowed to tell you which festivals we’ve actually been confirmed for yet – I’m sorry Gigslutz!
Damnit, I thought we could coerce you… so finally, if you could pick one highlight from 2015 – other than the obvious album release – what would it be and why?
I’d say the last London show. We hadn’t played in London for a while and I felt like it really spoke to me – the reaction was outrageous. Obviously we’re from Essex, and it felt like everyone that had been there from the start and all of our fans from the area had turned out, and it was just amazing. It was an incredible gig, everyone was singing along to everything, it wasn’t just the singles, they knew every song on the album and they were having the best time, which meant we had the best time! You don’t forget those things. I’m sure the next London show will be like that, and the next one – but for now, I couldn’t beat that.